Thanks to a remarkable run over the last seven weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers have finally moved above the .500 mark. Andre Iguodala is pleased with his team’s success, but also knows they still have a long road ahead.
The surging 76ers look to continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings and inch closer to a playoff berth Wednesday when they host the Chicago Bulls.
On Feb. 4, Philadelphia (36-35) was tied for 11th place in the East at 18-30, and appeared likely to miss its third straight postseason. Since then, the 76ers have won 18 of 23, including a 95-90 victory over conference-leading Boston on Monday to move above .500 for the first time since starting last season 4-3.
Philadelphia, seeking its first playoff berth since 2005, is now in sixth place in the East.
“It shows how hard we’ve worked to get back,” said Iguodala, who finished with 28 points in his second straight game on Monday. “But I think we still have to have that mentality like we’re a team that’s still under .500 and still fighting. It’s not over yet. We’ve gotten to a point where we want to be, which is over .500, but we still don’t have an ‘X’ by our name” to signify a playoff berth.”
The Sixers trailed the Celtics 80-69 with 8:20 to play in Monday’s fourth quarter, before Iguodala scored 10 straight points during a 19-0 Philadelphia rally.
“It’s huge when you come in here and win a game like this against Boston, it does a lot for us,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We still have a long way to go. This is just one step to try and get to where we want to be.”
The Sixers have established a commanding home-court advantage lately, winning 11 of their last 12 at the Wachovia Center after starting the season just 9-14 there. Chicago (28-42), meanwhile, has lost four straight road games by an average margin of 12.5 points, and eight of its last nine away from the United Center.
The Sixers have won two of three against the Bulls this season, but lost the only meeting in Philadelphia, 100-97 on Jan. 11.
The Bulls aided their playoff hopes Tuesday with a 103-94 victory over Atlanta.
Chicago, which has lost six of its last nine, trails the Hawks by two games for the East’s final playoff spot. The Bulls have only managed to win consecutive games once since New Year’s Day - March 4 and 6.
Drew Gooden scored a season-high 31 points and matched a season best with 16 rebounds on Tuesday night. He is averaging 19.9 points in his last seven games - 7.7 better than his season average.
“I’ve been feeling good as of late, comfortable in the offense and getting my shot in rhythm, whereas when I first got here I couldn’t knock down the outside shot for nothing because I didn’t know when it was coming,” said Gooden, whom the Bulls acquired from Cleveland on Feb. 21.